“Nothing, I just wanted to hear your voice.” Ah, it’s so nice having Durandal back. “What are you rolling your eyes for, Ilya? You got a problem? Huh?”
“No, it’s nothing,” Ilya said and shook her head. She looked at her dad who was sitting beside her. “Do you see what I mean now?”
“A little,” her dad said. He leaned back into the plush seats of the carriage and smiled at me. “Did you finish absorbing those cores I gave you?”
“Yup, it took about an hour.” He should’ve given me more. They technically grow on trees, don’t they? If I redefine a tree to mean divine beast, that is. What’s really surprising is hot chocolate actually does grow on trees! It’s amazing. “Durandal’s made it to divine warrior, and even Puppers became a divine sock.” My feet are constantly in heaven. It’s amazing. I need to make some divine underwear spirits. I wonder if I’ll find any during the competition.
Durandal turned his head. Hey, don’t look away from me! “What took you so long to become a divine spirit, Gae?”
“I spend more time dead than alive when I’m around Lucia,” Puppers said and lowered his head. That’s right, look away! This is called establishing dominance amongst beastkin. It works on demons and humans too. “I … don’t want to talk about it.”
The carriage jolted, and I almost spilled my hot chocolate. It continued to jolt, bouncing us up and down. And I really did spill my chocolate. “Why the heck is this road so bumpy!?”
“It’s the boundary line separating human and demon territory,” Ilya’s dad said. “It means we’re getting close to our destination.”
“That doesn’t explain why it’s such a crappy road.” Now that I spilled my drink, I only have eighty-three gallons left in my interspacial ring. I have to ration it carefully or I’ll run out in a week!
“No one wants to maintain it,” Ilya’s dad said and shrugged. Or at least I think he shrugged. Everyone was bouncing around too much to tell. “The demons think of it as the humans’ responsibility, and the humans think of it as ours. Thus, it remains in its war-torn state.”
“Why couldn’t we have just teleported there?” Then I could’ve lazed around in bed and relaxed until the day before the competition started. But no, we had to take the month-long carriage ride.
“I already told you,” Ilya said with a scowl. “A teleportation on that scale requires two arrays. It’s like a tunnel, and the humans would rather die before letting us build an array into their territory.”
“Mm. I was hoping the answer would change since the last time I asked.” A person can dream, right? “But we’re almost there then, yeah?” In the past month, I’ve been sparring with Durandal and Puppers at the same time because I’m stronger than both of them. Mainly because my weapon’s a cheat while they can’t do anything with theirs. I considered getting magic tools for them to use, but they both refused them because of their pride or something. They’re very belligerent to each other at times, always trying to be better than the other. It’s funny because I should be their real goal.
And I’m also improving faster than them too! They’ll never catch up to me. Nothing can get in the way of my happiness! Durandal also felt pretty bad for only teaching me Breaking Blade and the Steady Mountain Footwork—and the Flying Qi Blade, but that one doesn’t matter anymore—so he gave me a list of other techniques to choose from, saying I should pick the ones that suited my fighting style the best. I’m still peeved that he only picked out completely ungraceful and wholly barbaric techniques. I can be graceful! Ah, I dropped my cup. Oops.
Ahem, as I was saying, I learned some new techniques. The first one is called Breaking Tail. I insert all my qi into my tail and swing it like a whip! The second one is called Breaking Fist. I insert all my qi into my fist and punch as hard as I can! The third one is called Breaking Kick. I insert all my qi into my leg and kick as hard as I can! …Dammit, Durandal! He said they were new! Mm. Well, I really did learn one that’s different from all the rest. It’s called Armor of Slaughter. I can create a shield around my body that absorbs attacks. I do it by inserting all my qi into my body and…. Okay, this sounds exactly like a Breaking technique. I demand a refund.
“Teach me a new technique! A new! New! Technique.”
“Didn’t I teach you four?” Durandal smiled at me and patted my head. I missed these head pats so much. And I guess I was too harsh on Durandal. He did teach me four techniques after all. …Wait! Don’t be tricked that easily, Lucia. He’s trying to distract you.
“No! No, you didn’t. You gave me four variations of Breaking Blade. I could’ve came up with them myself!” In fact, I did come up with the Breaking Substitute Blade by myself. That’s the one where I grab a person and use them as a sword.
“Breaking Blade is the strongest, most practical amongst strength techniques. I don’t have much else to teach you,” Durandal said. “All that I have left are graceful, feminine techniques.”
“Teach me those!”
“Mm, they don’t work really well with the Path of Slaughter,” Durandal said and played with my tail. “But you know what they say, it’s better to master one technique than to learn dozens and not know how to fully use them.”
“But I definitely mastered Breaking Blade!” I’ve used it millions or billions of times by now! I do a thousand swings a day, but not recently because I’ve been slacking.
“Really?” Durandal asked with a smile.
“Really.” If I haven’t, I’ll give up drinking hot chocolate!
“Then…, can you control the shockwave’s trajectory?”
…It’s a good thing Durandal can’t read minds.
“And have you considered the other uses for Armor of Slaughter other than defense?” Durandal asked.
No. I haven’t. If it could be used for offense, then it wouldn’t be called armor, right?
“Like I thought, you haven’t.” Durandal sighed. “If only I were stronger, then I could force you to learn properly. But I can’t beat you or simulate a dangerous environment anymore. You don’t have to surpass your limits to fight me now.” He rubbed his chin. “I should find a dragon for you to fight.”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll just practice controlling the shockwaves of my Breaking Blades.”
“Oh, I have a good idea,” Durandal said, his eyes lighting up. Dammit. Something bad is going to happen to me. I just know it. Durandal reached over, grabbed the back of my dress, and … is he going to—!? He tossed me outside! What the hell!?
Durandal’s head appeared outside the carriage’s window. Were they speeding up!? “Lucia, use your Armor of Slaughter to lift yourself off the ground and chase after us. No part of your body is allowed to touch the ground. Every time you make contact with the ground, I’ll throw out a cup of hot chocolate.”
I knew Durandal didn’t have kind intentions when he asked to hold onto my interspacial ring! But I was tricked by stupid head pats! Armor of Slaughter! My qi surged around my body, and a faint layer of red light appeared on my skin. This should be enough to keep me off the ground, right? But Durandal seriously underestimated me. I could run faster than two horses pulling a carriage with my eyes closed and on one leg while moving backwards. …Not that I’m going to do that to myself.
“You’re not high enough off the ground,” Durandal said from up ahead. A splash of brown liquid flew out of the window. No! My chocolate! Dammit, Durandal! I’m not going to take it easy on you during our next spar! I transferred some of the qi armor from my arms to my legs. The red light grew thicker around my feet, and I was even higher up. Was I running faster too?
This isn’t enough? Then I’ll use all my qi! The Armor of Slaughter crawled down my body, merging with the qi by my feet. I should rename this to Boots of Slaughter. And now I’ll just grab onto this part of the carriage here and hitch a ride…? It slipped away! Why’s it going so fast!?
“How long will you be able to maintain this speed?” Durandal asked, his voice coming from inside the carriage.
“Until we arrive at our destination,” Ilya’s dad said. “They’re simple eighth-circle, speed-boosting spells.”
Gah! Don’t mess with me! Faster legs, faster! If this much qi can’t keep up with a stupid carriage, then I’ll put all my qi into one foot at a time. But constantly switching is tiring.
“If you don’t keep up, I’ll toss out more chocolate,” Durandal said, his head popping out of the window again. I was very tempted to throw mini-DalDal at him, but I had to concentrate on shifting my qi. “Oh, you’re getting the hang of it. Good job.” That’s right, praise me! And let me back onto the carriage while you’re at it. “Can you make the carriage go any faster?”
“She’s keeping up?” Ilya’s dad asked and popped his head out of the window as well. He flinched and slipped back into the carriage when I met his eyes. “Yeah, I can make it go faster.”
“Don’t you dare!” This is almost my limit! Why did I throw away my haste dress? Right, because Ilya could cast haste. “Ilya! Buff me!”
Ilya’s head popped out of the carriage. A second later, she yelped as she was pulled back inside by Durandal. “Sorry, Lucia! I tried!”
A green light covered the carriage, and it sped up even more. Stop doing that! I’m really going to be left behind at this rate. How do I increase my speed? Think, Lucia, think. Aha! Speed is relative. To increase my speed, I just have to decrease theirs! Alright, mini-DalDal, let’s do this. “Breaking—”
“Hot chocolate shield!” Durandal shouted and placed three barrels of hot chocolate on the carriage’s rear.
…Drat. Then I’ll destroy the road! “Breaking Blade!” A beam of red light flew out of my sword, creating a massive fissure that ran diagonally across the carriage’s path. The horses neighed and stopped…? Why aren’t they stopping!? Steam puffed out of their nostrils as they charged forwards and walked on air, easily passing over the fissure I created. The carriage rolled along as if the road was completely flat. That’s not fair! I was the one who complained about the bumpy carriage ride, and now that I’m gone, the carriage isn’t bumping anymore? Like I thought, there is no god.
“At the pace we’re going, we’ll only need a few hours before we arrive,” Ilya’s dad said from within the carriage. “I believe in you, Lucia.”
Wait! I’ll really be left behind! And I have no sense of direction; what if I get lost!? Ah, I’m speeding up? “P-Puppers?”
From my socks, Puppers let out a sigh. “Apparently, I’m the only one who thinks it’s a stupid idea to antagonize a divine warrior. And you’re my master after all; I have to help you.”
…Maybe I’ve treated Puppers too poorly in the past. He’s a good person. In my time of need, he’s the only one who offered a hand. Well, Ilya tried, but Durandal blocked her. “I’ve wronged you, Puppers.”
“If you really felt that way, you would call me by my actual name, Gae Bulg,” Puppers said. “Don’t I deserve at least some respect for being a divine warrior?”
“Mm, but Gae Bulg was a spear spirit. It’d be too confusing to call you that.” People would definitely look at me strangely if I had the prince’s, err, rare special monkey’s weapon spirit. “You’re a sock spirit now. New spirits should get new names, yeah? How about Mr. Puppers? I’m willing to give you that.”
Puppers fell silent. “I think I’ll stick with Puppers,” he said after a while.
Well, I tried.